Civil defense was another part of Soviet strategic defense. Since the Bolshevik Revolution ended in 1917, the Soviets nurtured the expectation of an impending attack by capitalist powers. During the 1920's, cities and other targets were prepared for protection against chemical and conventional attack. In 1927, OSOAVIAKHIM, a paramilitary training organization, was established with Civil Defense training as one of its prime functions. During the 1930's, as concern over air power and the German threat began to grow, the first nationwide civil defense program was begun.
However, it was not until World War II, when old civil defense programs proved inadequate, that shelter construction and compulsory training programs, designed mainly for civil defense workers, actually began. It originated with the large-scale relocation of defense industries from the western Soviet Union to east of the Ural Mountains in 1941. Civil defense reappeared in the late 1940s as antiaircraft units were attached to Soviet factories to defend them against strategic bombing. By 1948, Soviet civil defense programs had received increased attention in a variety of ways, including shelter construction in new buildings, mandatory study circles and instructor training programs, and periodic endorsements by the media.
By the early 1970s, the emphasis on civil defense increased, and the chief of Civil Defense became a deputy minister of defense. Each union republic had a general officer as the chief of civil defense in the republic.
In 1989, the purpose of civil defense was to provide protection for leadership and population in wartime and to ensure the Soviet Union's ability to continue production of military matériel during a nuclear or a protracted conventional war. Officers from Civil Defense were attached to union republic, oblast (see Glossary), raion, and municipal governments, as well as to large industrial and agricultural enterprises, and assigned to supervise civil defense work, organization, and training. These staff officers developed and implemented detailed plans for the wartime relocation of important defense industrial facilities and the evacuation of labor forces to alternative sites. They supervised the construction of blast shelters and other installations to ensure that these structures could withstand nuclear strikes. Civil Defense operated a network of 1,500 underground shelters that could protect 175,000 top party and government officials. In 1989 Civil Defense had 150,000 personnel.
After a nuclear exchange, the civil defense effort would be directed at reestablishing essential military production through decontamination, first aid, and civil engineering work to clear collapsed structures and to restore power supplies, transportation, and communications. Civil Defense trained in peacetime by conducting simulations of the aftermath of a nuclear attack and small-scale evacuation exercises. It was also called on to fight fires, conduct rescue operations, decontaminate areas affected by nuclear and chemical accidents, and provide natural disaster relief.
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